Explaining FDU’s Re-Opening Task Forces

By Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez

News Editor 

The university has three task forces —  academics, university general operations and budget — working on the many details needed before reopening for the fall semester. FDU staff, administrators and faculty make up these task forces. 

FDU President Christopher Capuano told The Equinox on Monday, June 1, many details have yet to be determined, especially campus operations. For matters like these, not much can be done without the knowledge of government policies at the time of reopening, he said. 

“Things can change rapidly, so we have to consider multiple scenarios and be prepared to adjust,” Capuano said. 

The president announced on May 29 FDU’s reopening structure for the fall semester and confirmed that task forces assembled to assist in the process. 

When the coronavirus pandemic spread to the United States at the start of 2020, FDU was forced to switch all courses to remote learning on March 20. The semester ended with a virtual commencement for graduating seniors while the state of New Jersey was still in quarantine. 

This week, the CDC reported close to 18,500 positive cases in Bergen County as of June 3. 

The virus is clearly still a problem. 

FDU had assembled task forces to be prepared for the upcoming fall semester. 

Gillian Small, the university provost, detailed task force efforts via email on May 27, saying that members have a variety of experience levels and perspectives to contribute to the planning process. She also said that outside officials and authorities will be consulted as often as necessary to ensure accuracy and safety. 

“Each task force is planning for multiple contingencies to account for as many variables as possible in our preparations for the fall,” Small said. 

“The academics task force, for example, is first working to build an academic calendar, and has consulted with a number of student leaders and groups to attain feedback before finalizing a plan, which will be made public soon,” she said, though details of how soon are still in the works. 

Hania Ferrara, senior vice president for finance and administration, a member of the task force for campus operations, sent an email to Metropolitan and Florham campus employees today. Ferrara listed the top 10 areas of focus: 

  1. COVID-19 screening and monitoring;
  2. COVID-19 testing;
  3. COVID-19 contact tracing;
  4. Building/site preparations, including classrooms and labs, residence halls, dining and other auxiliary services, isolation and quarantine space, athletic facilities, hygiene stations, security checkpoints, and signage and communication;
  5. Hygiene guidelines;
  6. Operational changes including enhanced cleaning procedures, social-distancing policy, and dining and other auxiliary service procedures;
  7. Athletic and fitness program policies;
  8. Faculty and staff healthy workplace policy;
  9. Student experience;   
  10. Policy and procedure real-time evaluation and monitoring.

According to Ferrara’s email, the members of the operations task force are: 

  • Pete Bonasia (co-chair), director of facilities at Metropolitan campus
  • Heidi Fichtenbaum (co-chair), senior project manager, facilities and auxiliary services 
  • Rose D’Ambrosio, vice president for human resources
  • James Doughtery, professor of chemistry and physics
  • Richard Frick, vice president for facilities and auxiliary services 
  • Gail Lemaire, university risk manager
  • Brian Mauro, Florham campus executive
  • Steve Nelson, Metropolitan campus executive 
  • David Rosen, professor of anthropology 
  • Neal Sturn, vice president and chief information officer 
  • Robert Valenti, associate vice president for auxiliary services 

While Ferrara outlined the members of the operations task force, she did not list members of the other two groups, task forces for academics and finances. 

“The [operations] task force is working closely with the Task Force for Academics to ensure that the concerns of faculty and students are a priority in all plans and policies to be established,” Ferrara said in the email. 

The operations task force is focusing on the aspects of campus life that will take longer to adjust, such as the capacity of residence halls and dining operations. 

A crucial matter under review is the available resources for virus testing, Ferrara said. 

Along with COVID testing, contact tracing, PPE and monitoring, many guidelines are being looked at for review, Ferrara said. These will include hygiene, athletic and staff workplace policies. All buildings must be prepared as well as isolation spaces, Ferrara said. 

“The task force is also working closely with the directors of student health services; Michael Avaltroni, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; and the deans of students,” Ferrara said. 

The main priority for all the task forces, and for the planning is the health and safety of our community members, President Capuano said. 

“We are determined to do everything possible to support our students and provide them the best educational experience we can,” he said.  

At least one task force has reached out to students for anonymous feedback on the scenarios being considered. 

“We wanted to hear what students thought because everything we do is to support them, and we always consider their opinions very heavily in everything we do,” said Capuano.

“Our goal is to provide a memorable and valuable educational experience that will lead to a lifetime of success. And we plan on doing just that,” said Capuano.  

“We appreciate all your patience and understanding as we prepare for the fall, and we will provide more information as soon as we can.”

Art By Equinox Staff

FDU uses task forces to plan fall semester re-opening.